When children line up to run in the Kids Chase by the Lake event this year, there will be a new name associated with the race.
In honor of a man who has meant so much to the community and the race itself, the event will now be called Coach Cox's Kids Chase after longtime volunteer Gary Cox.
Cox, who recently retired from his career as a teacher and a coach at B.B. Owen Elementary, helped start the race 18 years ago and has volunteered for it ever since. He spent 23 years at Owen as a PE teacher and coach. Before that he taught in Tulsa, Oklahoma for 20 years.
At its most recent meeting The Colony City Council recognized Cox for his service to the city.
“We are here to say thank you to someone who has really been a champion for our department, specifically for our Kids Chase event,” said Recreation Manager David Swain.
The event features a half-mile and a mile run for children ages 5-12.
“We have a lot of residents who are champions for the various services that we provide,” Swain said. “But Coach Cox is kind of a rare find.”
The Colony Roadrunners originally began the race with Cox taking the lead. Years later the city's parks and recreation department took a role in organizing it.
“We used to have a race like this in Tulsa, and I wanted to get a race started here,” Cox said. “I reached out to the Roadrunners, and they let me present my ideas.”
Cox said it was important to have a children’s-only race.
“Most runs aren’t just for kids,” Cox said. “We try to make the Kids Chase by the Lake fun. The kids can hang out with all of their friends, and there’s no pressure.”
“A lot of kids in middle school and high school will see the banner and will say, ‘I did that,’” Cox said. “So they get to reflect back.”
Swain said Cox's runners at B.B. Owen account for at least half, sometimes more, of the entire field of runners.
“We get 400 kids, and half of them come from one school,” Swain said.
Cox typically wears a yellow stove top hat as a way to remind students it's time to sign up for the race.
“We have supporters, but we don't have that kind of supporters very often,” Swain said.
Cox's involvement with Kids Chase has included warming up with the children on the stage before the race and supporting the runners throughout the day.
The city created a poster for Cox with signatures of various residents and employees in the city thanking him for his efforts, and the council presented to him at the meeting.
“We are so fortunate to have you in our community,” Mayor Joe McCourry said. “All of the years of teaching all of these kids and inspiring them and leading them the way you have done, we just can't say thank you enough.”
Cox also addressed his health issues he’s been battling in recent months and offered his thanks to the friends and family who have been there for him during his fight.
“A lot of people will text me and write me notes and give me cards,” Cox said. “They're praying. I feel like Peter in the Bible. You start to sink and you call Jesus, and he pulls you up again. I feel like I need to keep getting pulled up.
“I'm not going to give up,” Cox said. “I'm going to keep fighting the good fight. Sometimes when you go to the oncologist you don't get the good news. But you just have to trust in God.”